Oracle of San Francisco and Alinghi of Switzerland won close races as the protest-filled America's Cup challenger quarterfinals began Wednesday.

Top qualifiers Alinghi beat Prada of Italy by 1 minute 18 seconds, after leading by only eight seconds at the final mark. Oracle beat OneWorld by 12 seconds.

Britain's GBR Challenge sailed past New York's Stars & Stripes to win by 1 minute. Stars & Stripes led around all five marks by up to 55 seconds but carried a penalty throughout the race. The British yacht's margin was inflated when the New York team completed that penalty at the finish.

Sweden's Victory Challenge beat Le Defi of France by 2:03 in the day's only one-sided race.

Racing was delayed two hours by light winds, but the quarterfinals started in a breeze of between 14 and 19 knots.

OneWorld carried a penalty from the second leg of the race, when, as it gibed toward the bottom mark, it failed to allow Oracle room to keep clear. Oracle was already flying a red flag in protest over an incident earlier in the race.

OneWorld discharged that penalty by completing a 270-degree turn as it approached the final mark, giving up the lead to Oracle which rounded 14 seconds in front. Although OneWorld closed to within meters on the final run, Oracle maintained its composure.

-- From News Services

U.S. entrant Oracle got off to a good quarterfinals start by edging OneWorld by 12 seconds.